Hunt for ships against violators of century-old maritime law

The Jones Act Enforcer in Leeville, Louisiana, July 15, 2021.

Eli Autin/Offshore Marine Service Association via AP

NEW ORLEANS (AP) – Offshore energy service companies are on the hunt for foreign-flag vessels carrying pipeline parts and other energy-related equipment from U.S. ports and delivering or installing them in waters. Americans.

The Offshore Marine Service Association has launched a vessel to gather photos and videos of vessels it believes are in violation of a 1920 law requiring US ships to transport goods between US locations. It will provide that evidence to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which enforces the law, and trade publications, said Aaron Smith, president and CEO of the association.

He said the Jones Act Enforcer, named after the law, will operate in both the Gulf of Mexico and in the wind fields off the east coast.

we Customs and border protection declined to comment.

“I am absolutely thrilled,” said U.S. Representative John Garamendi, a California Democrat who lobbied for an amendment to a law covering the outer continental shelf — the land under federal offshore waters — to declare that several laws, including the Jones law, apply there.

He said he moved his amendment, which is now law, in part because while it was clear that the Jones Act covered offshore oil and gas, it was not clear that it covered the wind industry.

A Invoice repealing the Jones Act as protectionist legislation that drives up prices is before the Senate Commerce Committee. Such proposals have been made frequently over the past decade but have generally failed to make it out of committee, Garamendi said.

Offshore platforms and turbines and everything related to them should be removed from US ports and delivered or installed by US crews on vessels built and owned in this country, Smith said.

“A lot of times, foreign ships take each of these assets from the port and then put them in there,” he said.

The more than 140 members of its group include approximately 60 owners and operators of vessels that transport people, equipment and supplies to and from offshore platforms and platforms.

Garamendi said the US Customs and Border Patrol has been “a problem for years” approving dozens of Jones Act loopholes.

“They were basically in the hands of the international companies and regularly writing exemption orders,” he said.

The association has challenged those loopholes in lawsuits and by lobbying members of Congress.

Smith said the Jones Act Enforcer “will show everyone how many foreign sailors are taking money out of American sailors’ pockets.”

He said crew training, guidance from American sailors, still and video cameras and “air resources” are among the tools of the crew.

“We are very confident that we can find, track and document violations,” Smith said.

Garamendi said, “Someone is watching them. And this is a good thing. Because we want American equipment and American jobs to be used in building our future energy sources and our industry.